AgTech 2.0: Solving the More Difficult Problems
I am not a farmer, but I do get to see a lot of new ag technologies coming to the market.
Speaking with farmers, there is definitely a fatigue associated with the promise of a new tool that will “revolutionize” (in quotes because almost always hyperbole) the way they do business.
They roll their eyes when they are told of the cost savings and yield increases, because, well, everyone says that.
A great part of the fatigue is coming from technologies that I’ll choose to call AgTech 1.0. These technologies often are intended to collect some form of data. The benefit, as is often stated, is when the farmer has that data, they can make better decisions.
This makes sense, except more data is not always the answer. Only that data that leads to an actionable management decision can be utilized.
I spoke with Sid Gorham, Co-Founder of Granular about this topic on a recent “Future of Agriculture” Podcast episode.
Sid put it succinctly here:
“We view it in two phases: the first phase being collect/measure your business with a certain level of fidelity and get all that data organized. I would say we are well into that stage. I would say the next and more exciting phase is to have the software, have the data make recommendations to you. So it’s not just you contribute data and then you go look at it and think about it. But rather the software turns around ideas to you that says we recommend you sell 20% of your crop now, we recommend that you harvest that field after this other field, we recommend that you buy another combine. So I think the decision support phase is just beginning. And that’s where the fun really is in my opinion. We had to do the hard work, the painful really detail oriented work of laying the plumbing but now I think we are finally getting to the phase where our farmers have enough data and enough fluency in their data that companies like granular can start to test more decisions.”
I like Sid’s analogy of laying the plumbing. We have to have reliable ways to collect the data consistently. With more reliable data streams, companies like Granular and others can build useful applications that inform better management decisions.
One of my favorite quotes is by Derek Sivers: “If more information was the answer, then we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.”
Obviously the answer is NOT always more information. Instead it’s the right type of information that leads to an optimal decision. I share Sid’s optimism that this could be what the next stage of ag technology could bring.
Consider the farmer that has watched the billions of dollars being poured into agtech over the past 10 years and is still struggling to make a margin. With this in mind it’s not difficult to empathize with why they’re not excited with the next new gadget to give them more data. That is, unless that data goes further to an actual better decision. More specifically, a decision that will make them more profitable.
One reason I was excited to partner with Granular and speak with Sid, is they are creating a platform that helps farmers sort through all of this data. This ability to filter the most useful data and to offer actionable insights could be a tremendous tool for the future of agriculture. I hope you’ll listen to my conversation with Sid on the podcast.